Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Value of Ritual April 15, 2014

In 1997 four other women and I formed an organization we called The Matrix. Our purpose was to discover, define, and address what is valuable in the lives of women. Having experienced many benefits from engaging in personal rituals, it was important to me to find concrete and memorable ways to express our hopes and desires for the Matrix — for example, to devise meaningful programs, to relate honestly, to work in harmony with one another, and to help women create connections with their own deep wells of wisdom — and so I created rituals for each meeting as well as the events we produced. To my delight, the others participated eagerly, and after a while I earned the unofficial title of “Ritual Lady,” a distinction I wore with great honor.

At first, the most obvious benefit of our planning session rituals was that they connected us with our innermost selves, often at levels much deeper than those normally accessible. Rarely did we complete a ritual without deep emotion and affirming new insights. This soul-baring work established the foundation for an unusual degree of intimacy and trust which gradually changed our group from a secular organization into a spiritual community. As a woman who has been very slow to trust that others would accept me if I spoke my soul’s truths, I experienced a huge breakthrough the first time my Matrix sisters created a special ritual for me in which to express some anger. Their encouragement to communicate honestly and openly, and their acceptance when I did, was life-changing.

I would never have had the courage to do this if we had not, meeting after meeting, month after month, year after year taken the time to create a sacred container for ourselves and our work through ritual. For me, this proves the truth of an assertion by Kay Turner in her article, “Contemporary Feminist Rituals,” that “Feminist ritual practice is currently the most important model for symbolic and, therefore, psychic and spiritual change in women.”

Whether personal or collective, rituals help transform individual souls and bring them into proper relationship with One Soul. In Turner’s words, “…ritual space and activity are sacred in the sense of representing the possibility of self-transformation. Part of the power and the fear experienced in ritual is the realization that one may change, become ultimately different, as a result of the experience or that the experience may suddenly make recognizable change that has been slowly rising from the depths of personality and ideology.”

A major benefit of ritual is growth in consciousness. As I wrote in my post from February, 2011 titled “Your Body As Your Partner in Dreamwork,” I’ve found that participating in original rituals helps me clarify and integrate important new insights. Even if I should someday forget the ritual my Matrix sisters conducted for me, the courage, relief, self-validation and personal empowerment I experienced changed me forever. I still feel anger and other powerful emotions, of course, but I am no longer at their mercy, nor do I feel compelled to deny them healthy outlets, for the simple reason that I am more conscious.

Before I began writing this post I lit the lemon grass and wheat-scented candle on my desk and spent a moment in quiet self-awareness. This never fails to inspire me. When I am finished, extinguishing it will bring the comfort of knowing I have completed a task that is important to my soul. What are the rituals that nourish your soul?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,  and Diesel Ebooks 

 

A Path With Heart April 11, 2014

Here’s a spiritual truth I’ve learned through personal experience. Without self-knowledge, all the offerings of organized religion — group worship, teachings, scriptures, retreats, sacraments, guidance from helpful religious professionals — and all the correct beliefs, good intentions and divine interventions we can experience are not enough to transform us into spiritually mature beings. Why? Because there is no such thing as spiritual maturity without psychological awareness! You can no more separate your spiritual self from the rest of your psyche than you can separate your right brain from your left and still be a whole, balanced human being.

In A Path With Heart, Jack Kornfield tells the story of how he spent 10 years, many of them as a Buddhist monk, in systematic spiritual practices conducted primarily through his mind. Having had visions, revelations, and many deep awakenings and new understandings, this holy man returned to the United States to work and continue his studies in graduate school. To his surprise, he discovered that his years of meditation had helped him very little with his feelings or human relationships. In his words,

“I was still emotionally immature, acting out the same painful patterns of blame and fear, acceptance and rejection that I had before my Buddhist training; only the horror now was that I was beginning to see these patterns more clearly. I could do loving-kindness meditations for a thousand beings elsewhere but had terrible trouble relating intimately to one person here and now. I had used the strength of my mind in meditation to suppress painful feelings, and all too often I didn’t even recognize that I was angry, sad, grieving, or frustrated until a long time later. The roots of my unhappiness in relationships had not been examined, I had very few skills for dealing with my feelings or for engaging on an emotional level or for living wisely with my friends and loved ones.”

Many of us have known spiritually-oriented people who think very well of themselves yet are arrogant, mean-spirited, impatient, intolerant, critical or unloving. This common phenomenon is partly why Freud was so critical of religion. He must have asked himself many times how people who professed to love God could be so hateful to their families and neighbors; how such lofty ideals could co-exist with such lousy relationships. In the face of this perceived hypocrisy he dismissed humanity’s spiritual nature and focused on understanding the sexual instinct, the repression of which he believed to be the true source of our problems.

It would take Freud’s maverick mentee, Carl Jung, to discover the fundamental reality of our spiritual natures and understand that they cannot be fully activated and empowered unless we take our inner lives seriously and commit ourselves to owning and integrating our disowned qualities — instincts, emotions, hidden motivations, archetypal inheritance, everything. Jung had learned for himself that neither psychological nor spiritual dogma can heal our souls and transform us into spirit persons:  only consciousness can do that.

The work of this spiritual and psychological pioneer has made all the difference in my life.  I’d like to recommend two sites to anyone interested in learning more. For information about how you can start a Centerpoint study group write to: centerpointec.com  For a list of Jungian books you can use to begin your own program of study, check out Inner City Books.  I’m pretty sure you’ll never regret it.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

The Soul’s Twins April 3, 2014

Have you ever felt like more than one person? I’m not talking about a psychotic split, but about how we can feel and behave differently in different situations or seasons. How sometimes we want to be with people and sometimes need to be alone. How we can be passionate about something today and indifferent tomorrow. How we occasionally feel separated from our true selves. If you’ve ever wondered about things like this, you, too, have pondered Life’s Big Question: “Who the heck am I anyway?”

I used to ask myself this during long summers at our vacation home in the Smoky Mountains. There I can spend hours on the porch contemplating hummingbird hostilities, listening to birds define their territories, scanning the sky for soaring hawks and gray clouds, conversing with the gurgling creek, and absorbing the rhythms of the day. I care for animals, feed fish, hike, garden. If we’re having a drought I spend hours driving around the property in my green John Deere Gator with the big water tank labeled WEEKEND WARRIOR lovingly spraying water on every growing thing in sight. I thrive on being alone. I love going nowhere, listening, feeling, sweating, getting dirty. I can’t get enough of the solitude or outdoors.

Do I want to be outdoors in Florida? Are you kidding me? It’s HOT out there! And why would I want to water plants? If they don’t get enough moisture from the dripping humidity and afternoon thunderstorms they’re on their own! In Florida I rarely think about fish or watch clouds or tend to plants. I don’t care if it rains. I want to be with my family, socialize with friends, write.

So who am I? In Florida I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, supporter of the arts, social person. In North Carolina I’m a loner, gardener, observer of nature, enjoyer of solitude. In Florida I side with Apollo, god of the sun, civilization, the cerebral life and culture; in North Carolina I honor Artemis, goddess of the moon, wilderness, the instinctual life and nature.

Did you know these two Greek deities were twins? Which is the real me? The answer, of course, is both. Carl Jung said, “Within each one of us there is another whom we do not know. S/He speaks to us in dreams…” This Another is our unconscious, an inner soup of unknown characters, complexes, untapped interests and disowned emotions. At an early age our ego adapted to the life into which we were born by incorporating the tastiest of these tidbits into our conscious personality and neglecting the rest. We may not normally be aware of the rejected ones, but they are still part of us. Since most are not crucial to our soul’s purpose they don’t mind being ignored. But there are always a critical few we have wrongly disowned. Until we befriend them they show up in our dreams and erupt into waking life in problematic ways.

Splitting my time between two homes in separate and very different settings has actually helped me heal what was once a split between my soul’s twins. For many years my ego favored Apollo’s high ideals, intellectual pursuits and cultured sensibilities, but no more.   Now Artemis leads me through the wild, dark unconscious and Apollo helps me write about what she shows me. Because I love them both as much as I love my twin grandsons, there’s no sibling rivalry, no need for them to vie for my ego’s attention. Life is so much richer and more peaceful this way.

Connor and Jake, this one’s for you. Thank you for enriching my life.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

The Heroic Making of a Soul March 28, 2014

Maiden/Princess

Maiden/Princess

Child

Child

Earlier this month on March 10, my darling child, Matrignosis, turned four years old.  As it has been with my human children, so it has been with Matrignosis in many ways: Pouring my passion into her and learning more about myself as she’s grown has been one of the greatest privileges and pleasures of my life.  Indeed, the overwhelming maternal feelings I have for her and what she’s taught me are reflected in the name I gave her:  matri (Lat. Mother), and gnosis (Gk. knowledge).

Yet, as she has developed through my creative outpourings, Matrignosis has been not only Child, but also Maiden, Mother and Crone to me.  All are part of the life cycle of women and the Sacred Feminine in whatever guise we see her: Goddess, Sophia, Anima, Soul, Yin, Mother Nature, Durga, Kali, the drive for species-preservation…..

As Child she represents my youthful innocence—all the instinctual feeling, vulnerability, wonder and openness I once had and to which I am returning, this time with awareness. (See Dreams of the Divine Child.)

As Maiden she is my dreaming Princess who lives in the questions and tolerates the tension between immaturity and maturity, ignorance and knowing, waiting for a kiss to guide her next steps in the dance. (See The Golden Bear.)

As Mother and Queen she has willingly embraced the otherness of masculinity.  In so doing, she has suffered the loss of innocence, established the boundaries of her identity, struggled to assume her sovereignty, and celebrated the birth of fresh, hopeful new life.  (See The Queen: Lioness of the Psyche)

As a Crone who is slowly and lovingly being stripped of youth’s illusions, she is opening to the mystery of Death while blessing the beauty and wisdom of her body,  experiences, and each fleeting moment of her miraculous life.  (See A Dream of Crones  and Crone Love.)

Matrignosis contains all these qualities and more, as do I. She also reflects my Shadow, the parts of me that are ignorant, self-centered, proud, stubborn, judgmental, defensive, unforgiving.  In some posts I’ve shared my flaws. In others I’ve withheld them. And sometimes they’ve snuck through the cracks in my Persona without my awareness, just as my Shadow sometimes erupts in my behavior.  That’s what Shadows do and I’m okay with that. There’s no human being so transparent that light passes through without casting a shadow.

Yet I am not just a physical body with a flawed personality.  I’m also an evolving soul with a sincere passion for self-knowledge, a deep love for Spirit, and a powerful desire to pass along what I have learned.  As such, Matrignosis is as much a testament to my soul’s healthy truths and accomplishments as to my ego’s unhealed wounds.

The combination of both is what makes me human.  My willingness to take my soul seriously enough to face and admit to both is what makes me heroic.  The same is true of you and every soul who suffers the shame of ignorance, who is appalled when your Shadow overrules reason and good intentions, who enters the struggle for understanding because you want learn how to love and help other suffering souls.  You. Are. Heroic!

And so in conclusion to this celebration of Matrignosis’s fourth birthday, I’d like to say that of all the good things she has brought into my life over the past four years, the courage to claim my soul’s heroism and let its light shine without apology or fear of judgment brings the most satisfaction.

Thank you for reading and sharing your truths here.  It means the world to me to have created this in-between space where heroic souls can meet.

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Crone

Crone

This is for you, Tony.  Did you ever know you are my hero?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.  Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

Art: Debutante, by Helen Scobel Raffa. 

Art: Wisdom Lady by C. Victor Posing. Used with permission.

 

Psychology and Religion: Natural Enemies or Intimate Partners? January 7, 2014

dreamstime_xl_19724675In my growing up years the relationship between psychology and religion mirrored the cold war between the U.S. and Russia. Other than the fact that each was suspicious of the other, they appeared to have little in common.

But this began to change for me at the age of 17. One morning I was reading the assigned Bible verses at church camp when suddenly the door to a hidden dimension of my being burst open and a flood of feeling and meaning rushed into my awareness. Suddenly I understood words which, until then, were written in a foreign language. And they spoke directly to me!

My heart responded with stunned awe and wonder. God was real. Moreover, God knew me and was using the Bible to communicate with me!

Joseph Campbell called an experience like this “… a profoundly felt, inward knowledge of the transpersonal imperatives and quality of life…” The impact was so powerful, in fact, that I couldn’t get enough of the New Testament and read it again and again over the next several years.

 “‘Archetype’ is Jung’s word for the psychological image of a god, and when an archetype is activated, we speak of its impact as numinous. In other words, numinosity is the charge of energy in whatever we experience as divine or demonic. If you want to know what is numinous to you, consider what you find fascinating, compelling, thrilling, mysterious, horrifying, gripping, tremendous, terrifying, dreadful, or awesome. Think about the things with which you are preoccupied in spite of yourself.”   -Jungian analyst Janet O. Dallett

My experience was numinous. I can use religious language and call it a “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Psychologically I can interpret it as the activation of the Self archetype.  Or I can see it as both. Having no psychological understanding at the age of 17, I chose the former.  But it doesn’t really matter how I saw it. Either way, it happened. And it got my attention in a big way.

The religious part of the psyche is at work whenever you pay attention to something that is numinous to you, whether or not other people feel it is important.”  -Janet O. Dallett

I kept paying attention and had more numinous experiences. Each one awakened awarenesses about the spiritual dimensions of life and created lasting changes in me. I knew I was part of a vast Mystery and I was compelled to trust the stream of life-giving feeling and knowing that was my umbilical cord to the Sacred.

For a long time I dared not speak about this.  Who was I to think God indwelled me, when one of the most respected religious authorities in my church openly disparaged “humanism” and “psychology” because they were the despised “wisdom of man” as opposed to “the wisdom of God?” What was important to him was belief in the word of God as revealed to spirit persons two thousand years ago and recorded in Holy Scriptures.  What was revealed to today’s spirit persons was heretical.

But the Bible, Torah, and Koran are not God. They are symbols that point to the Mystery some of us call God, Yahweh, or Allah. As such, they can trigger life-changing numinous experiences, but only if they activate our archetypal roots—the religious part of the psyche—in ways that get our attention.  Whatever God is, it cannot change us or the world without our growing awareness!

Psychology and religion are not natural enemies, but intimate partners in the sacred dance of life.  We are not only imprinted with the Sacred, we are sacred, just as all life is sacred.

Photo credit: dreamstime

My books can be found at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Diesel Ebooks and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

The Thanksgiving Gift of Two-Way Partnership November 26, 2013

Queen of the Night and King of the Day:  A Partnership Made in Heaven

Queen of the Night and King of the Day: A Partnership Made in Heaven

My Thanksgiving gift for you is a video about a very special young woman who can neither hear nor speak yet has an extraordinary gift of communication. Stacy Westfall is a bona fide horse whisperer who communicates with her body, heart and soul. Before you see her in action I want to tell you something about human-horse relationships.

Most people think working with horses is a one-way form of communication: the human does the training and the horse does the listening and learning so it can serve the human’s needs. Most riders and trainers love horses very much and train them with kindness and patience; others believe they need to “break” horses with bullying and brute force. Either type can achieve great success…from the perspective of the human ego.

But the truly inspiring horse whisperers like Stacy step out of their egos and into the horse’s perspective because they want partnerships that are as satisfying to the horse as the human. They don’t have special powers the rest of us lack. Their secret is quite simple. They let themselves be trained by horses. They appreciate and respect the otherness of horses—their desire to please us, their willingness to serve us—so they take the time to learn and use horse language. Horses are exactly the same in reverse. They are “human whisperers” who appreciate and respect our otherness, are acutely sensitive to our emotional nuances, try to learn our language, and let themselves be trained by us because they want satisfying relationships too.

The horse whisperer/human whisperer relationship is the best example of two-way partnership I know. You’ll see it going on between the horse and human in this video. Look for Stacy’s signals: hand pats and rubs, heel nudges, turning her head in the direction she wants her horse to take, shifting her body weight. Then watch for Baby Doll’s signals to her. Throughout the performance his mouth is licking and chewing, licking and chewing. Know what this means in horse language? He’s telling her he’s thoroughly bonded with her and is doing his absolute best to please her.

Watch his ears. When he’s alert and focused he points them forward. This tells Stacy he’s paying attention and ready to go. When she gives a signal he swivels one ear back toward her. He’s listening. When she asks him to do something that requires extra concentration and exertion, like spinning in circles or running backwards, he flattens them on his neck, indicating his agitation and determination.

Watch his tail. When he’s relaxed his tail is relaxed. When he’s asked to move sideways or kneel, his tail switches back and forth with increased intensity. And when he’s getting excited and probably a bit annoyed about the truly difficult things, he whips it up and down with some attitude. But he does what Stacy asks him to, then he licks and chews and pops his ears back to alert and all is well again.  He does this for the same reason you push through your annoyance to do the tough exercises your trainer or aerobics instructor asks of you. Because this partnership is important to you, you’re grateful for it, you want to do your best, and it feels good when you do.

The best way I know to show gratitude to our loved ones this Thanksgiving is to be a human whisperer: To pay attention what they’re asking of us, learn the nuances of their communication styles, push through our annoyance, and try our best to be a good partner. May you allow yourself to be trained by your loved ones this Thanksgiving. Enjoy the video.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Connecting with the Holy, Step Two: Giving Our Warrior A New Job October 22, 2013

What Does Your Life Map Look Like?

What Does Your Life Map Look Like?

With inner work [your ego accords] every element of life, including the dark elements…a place of dignity and worth.”

–Robert A. Johnson

If spirit persons throughout history are right when they say the nature of Divine Being is light and love, why can’t we see and feel it?  Because our shadow blocks the light!  Unfortunately, we can’t see our shadow either.  In fact, we find the very idea of it difficult to comprehend. So how do we handle something we can’t see and don’t believe in?

Luckily, we each have an inner ally who can help. The Warrior archetype is a powerful pattern of psychological energy with the courage, commitment and self-discipline to show up to work every day. It wants to be active but it only has so much energy so we need to prioritize. We can begin by asking ourselves these questions:

1: What job(s) does my Warrior have now?  In other words, what occupies the majority of my time, thought, activity and will power? My job? Family? Home? Appearance? Social standing? Relationships? Hobbies? Addictions? Making money? Acquiring material objects? Pleasing people?

2:  Does using my Warrior’s energy these ways bring joy, meaning and fulfillment or do I yearn for something more?

We have two basic life tasks. During the first half our job is to acquire power and success in the material world.  Our Warrior’s energy is meant to be directed into socialization, education, perfecting our skills, and establishing a comfortable home, satisfying job and loving relationships. Using some of our energy to disown what we consider negative while trying to act positive and loving is often helpful during this time, but it’s not enough to connect us with the mystery of Divine Love.

If your answer to #2 is that you’re still unfulfilled and yearning, you’re probably near the second half of life. Dissatisfaction at this time comes from having repressed some of our valid, and often valuable, potential. To complete ourselves we need to give our Warrior the new job of freeing our unlived life.First, we need to become intentional about acknowledging our true feelings, especially those which feel dangerous, for they are among the more accessible symptoms of our shadow. Then we need to begin a committed program of regular inner work that will help us see and restrain it. Inner work is a big job, in fact it’s THE big job, and it continues throughout our lives. Most of us find it painful at first, but it gets easier. Spirit persons have always demonstrated that growth pains are preferable to the child’s fear of switching on the light in the closet of nighttime monsters, for that is a choice to remain in spiritual darkness.

Integrating Our Light and Dark Sides.

Integrating Our Light and Dark Sides.

Inner work requires our Warrior’s commitment to practice, practice, practice!  It can be anything that brings self-knowledge, empowers us to make healthy choices, and provides purpose, meaning and spiritual direction. Examples include journaling, dream work, active imagination, meditation, and psychotherapy.  For more information, I highly recommend Robert A. Johnson’s Inner Work. Growing mindful of how and when our shadow shows up is like creating a special road map that highlights unnecessary detours and obstacles, and directs us to safer routes. No one else can make our roadmap and we can’t complete it for ourselves without self-knowledge.

The theme of solar mythology is a great battle between light and darkness, good and evil.”

–Anne Baring

Befriending the dark side seems counterintuitive to most people today. After 4,000 years of conditioning by the Sky god’s mythology, our Warrior is far more comfortable trying to obliterate it!  But when the sun of our life begins to set and the moon begins to rise, lunar mythology, with its theme of integrating dark and light, is meant to take over. Dialogues with our soul open our hearts. With practice they bring self-acceptance, humility, compassion, forgiveness and love. These qualities connect us to our Source—the Divine Ground in which we and the universe are immersed—and allow it to manifest its love for us. When we accept ourselves and learn to love, our shadow’s power ebbs away and holiness flows in.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

Photo:  Antique Map of Hungary, Braun & Hogenberg

Photo:  Fijian Warrior, Graham Crumb

 

Connecting with The Holy, Step One: Getting in Touch with Our True Feelings October 15, 2013

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang

“Thinking noble thoughts does not connect us with the Holy; only the ability to feel love for ourselves and others does that.”

–Jean Raffa

I recently posted this quote from Healing the Sacred Divide on Twitter and received the following comment from Amrita.  “Yes, over the years of introspection, I have [come to understand] that in order to know the whole one needs to know the dark as well…to know positive , one must be aware of the negative and one must not act negative as it would amount to bad karma.  The whole self-help industry talks about being positive but it doesn’t explain all the mysteries. Do explain it in your blog…”

There are so many dimensions to this issue that I could write books about it. But I’ll try to distill it into two posts by going straight to the core (or coeur) of the matter: the heart.  I’m reminded of the saying, “You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up.”  The mysteries are not about pretending to love and care:  they’re about feeling and manifesting love and care. Feeling and being are key.

Humanity has always intuited that the mysteries revolve around love. Loving feelings are prayers from which everything good flows. Tenderness, kindness, healing, peace. Compassion. Choices to forgive, set aside hurt and anger, sacrifice our ego’s need for revenge so others won’t get hurt: these are choices to love.

Using self-discipline, will power and positive affirmations and intentions to be more loving is, of course, a step in the right direction. But mental activity without physical and emotional participation is not enough. Sometimes it’s just a band-aid the ego sticks on the surface of a wound to avoid dealing with deeper, more painful realities. Every ego experiences wounding, and we all try to protect ourselves by repressing, disowning, ignoring or escaping. But until our psychic wounds are addressed and healed, the pain always oozes back into our awareness.  Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that our mental discipline crumbles and our positive affirmations have no effect at all.

“In the realm of feeling…Western man is apt to be the puppet of his unconscious moods.”

–M. Esther Harding

We tell ourselves to blow off someone’s unkind words, but our vulnerable, innocent child within thinks, “What did I do?” and we start feeling hurt and sad.  If we don’t catch those feelings right away, we move on to feeling wronged and resentful.  We think, “I don’t deserve to be treated this way!” and now we’re really angry.  Saying we love the person who elicited this response doesn’t make the anger go away and they can feel it whether we admit to it or not.  If we’re not feeling love and they’re not feeling lovable, no one is convinced.

Or we knock ourselves out trying to look fabulous and act adorable and pleasing so we’ll be loveable and loved. But this takes a lot of work that uses up a psychological energy. When there’s no energy left we let down our guard; then the least little thing sets us off.  Resentment and pettiness and self-loathing creep in, and the attitudes and actions that spew out into the world have nothing to do with love.

Unloving feelings that destroy our resolve to love are aspects of the unhealed and disowned parts of ourselves we call our dark shadow. When the shadow walks in the door, positive thoughts and will power fly out the window and the results are utterly predictable.  Toxic feelings from unhealed wounds birth toxic behaviors.  That’s just the way we’re made.

This is why getting in touch with our true feelings is the first step to connecting with the Holy.  I’ll discuss the second step next time.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

The Sacrament of Paying Attention August 13, 2013

The Church conducts sacraments to infuse life-changing experiences like birth, marriage, and death with sacred meaning. Many find these rituals deeply satisfying and enjoy the positive feelings they bring long afterwards.  But inevitably our sense of the Sacred fades and the good feelings are replaced with less comfortable ones. What do we do then?  Formal community rituals don’t address the inner discomfort of an individual psyche.

Every ego experiences wounding in the process of growing up, and sometimes the normal pressures of life reactivate our wounds.  Then they speak to us in uncomfortable moods and emotions like tension, anxiety, agitation, self-doubt, depression, sadness, longing, frustration, irritability, self-pity, anger. Most egos learn to repress certain thoughts and feelings that bring inner discomfort, and we tend to feel proud of our ability to do this.

This is a mistake.  Even the tiniest emotional twinge can be a valuable message from our unconscious, but ignorance turns the opportunity for a blessing into an obstacle that separates us from our awareness of the Sacred. Thus, do we deprive ourselves of the love and balance that are our spiritual inheritance.

There is a sacrament anyone can conduct to free and heal the wounded and imprisoned parts of ourselves. I call it the Sacrament of Paying Attention. The first step is to notice when we’re feeling or acting uncomfortable or moody. The second is to imagine which of our many wounded inner characters is causing the feeling or mood. And the third is to treat this shadow with warm welcome and kind attention until it becomes our friend.

Dream analysis and journal-writing help us perfect these steps. Dreams depict our wounds in the feelings, emotions, and behaviors of our dream ego and other characters. Writing about these things brings understanding and self-acceptance. After 21 years I can feel the wound and befriend the shadow in a few moments under normal circumstances. But as I write this I’m traveling with a group in a foreign land and have had little opportunity to tend to inner business. A few nights ago I had a dream in Saigon that spoke to how my soul was feeling about this.

In the dream I’m hosting a wedding shower in my childhood home and nothing goes quite right. I keep the guests waiting outside for ten minutes, and when I let them in I realize I haven’t tidied up the house or prepared refreshments. Then I rush the bride-to-be into opening her gifts without taking the time to welcome my guests, make them comfortable, or conduct the opening ritual I had planned. I try to justify this by telling myself I’ve done the best I can, but the dream ends with me feeling ashamed and wishing I had paid more attention. My guests deserved my best effort.

I wanted to ignore this dream and the feelings it evoked, but it had alerted me to the stress and self-criticism that prolonged interaction with others produces in me, and I knew it would only get worse in the days ahead. So, on the long bus ride from Saigon to the Mekong Delta I sat alone, recorded the dream, wrote my associations, and tried to identify the wounded shadow who’s feeling this way. In doing so, I recognized my introverted child (I was in my childhood home) whose conditioning to solitude left her ill-equipped for lengthy and intense communal situations.

The sense of release and relief was immediate and dramatic. Attending to this dream soothed my child, showered my inner bride-to-be and other inner guests with the attention they deserved, and gave me the refreshing respite I needed. The Sacrament of Paying Attention reunited my ego with the Beloved.  I’m all better now!

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.

Note:  I’m not in Viet Nam now. This is a revised version of a post that first appeared in December of 2010!

 

A Grand Adventure July 10, 2013

Globe fire pit:  The fire's in South America

Globe fire pit: The fire’s in South America

It’s been over five weeks since I decided to step back from my twice-weekly blog posting to just let life happen without an agenda. I’ve been surprised to find that with only one exception (my post about Grandmother Spider) I haven’t missed writing.  Until today. Why now? Lots of things I guess:  a note from a friend who’s missing my regular updates and musings;  a lull in the activity going on around here (my three grandsons have left to visit their other grandparents for a week and my daughter’s family is off zip-lining today).  And also, perhaps, because I think best by writing and I have much to think about.

Apparently my new freedom from stressing over self-imposed writing deadlines has snuck into other areas of my personality. The other day my husband and one of our grandsons spent a lot of time setting out cushions and hauling wood and laying a fire in our new globe fire pit in the terrace garden by the creek.  Out-of-town friends were dropping by for a glass of wine and we were going to sit out there.

Just before they arrived the skies darkened and thunder rolled and a few fat droplets splashed on the deck.  I casually said to my daughter, “Let it rain. The wood will dry, the cushions won’t be ruined, and they’ll see it another time.”  With a deadpan look she said, “Well that was very un-compulsive of you!”  I’m still chuckling.  I loved it that my stress switch didn’t automatically flip on and highjack my equanimity as it has done so often in the past! I don’t know if it’s increasing age or increasing consciousness, but either way, it’s real progress!

Last week my five grandchildren were here for some much anticipated fun at Camp MaBoppa with, you guessed it, Ma and Boppa. After several days of spending most of our time indoors because of non-stop rain, one night around midnight I was in their bunk room trying for the zillionth time to settle them down and get them to go to sleep. The first few nights of this it hadn’t been an issue. The excitement of being with each other was catching and I figured it wouldn’t do any harm to let them enjoy the novelty for the few days they’d all be together.

But by this night my HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) personality trait had been pushed to the max by not enough sleep, too little solitude, and too much intense stimulation. Tired, frustrated, and cranky, I was preparing to leave when one child started laughing and another started crying and I felt a crack in my normally patient, composed persona, and then it exploded into a million pieces. I felt it coming like you do when someone lights the fuse of a giant mamajama Roman Candle on the 4th of July, and then I let it fly with a few angry, totally appropriate, well-chosen words!

Absolute silence! In bed a moment later, a twinge of guilt and a bit of fear that they’d stop loving me were soon swept away by a wave of joy and “You go, girl!” pride.  I did it! I was proud of myself! It was the right thing to do and I knew it! For someone who hates conflict so much that sometimes she doesn’t set clear boundaries, this was an important achievement.

That night I dreamed I was looking at a map of the Western Hemisphere and tracing a route that started in North America, passed through Central America, and ended at a special village in the center of South America. Part of the route was a watery passage dotted with islands. I imagined I’d need a canoe for that. I’d been asked by a regal-looking woman wearing a long, neutral colored dress to accompany her and her photographer on this trip. I was to help him articulate the essence and meanings of the images he’d be making of our grand adventure. The dream ended with someone giving me a packet of folded up paper. When I opened it, precious gems tumbled out and I searched for the diamond I knew was in there for me.

The next day we were having lunch when one of my grandsons said, “Do you remember what you said last night?”

“Yup,” I said.  “I sure do.  And there’s more where that came from if I need it.”

“I’ve never seen you that way,” he said with a touch of awe. “Me neither,” said the little one, equally solemn and wide-eyed.  Then we all smiled at each other and ate our sandwiches.

This summer is turning out to be a grand adventure.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon site and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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